In the mid-1970s, Dutch musician/songwriter Frank Klunhaar took on the persona of costumed glam rocker, Pantherman. Klunhaar was inspired by the rock-n-roll spectacle he witnessed during a 1974 Roxy Music gig in Rotterdam, as well as the surrealistic character of the 1969 film, Fellini Satyricon. He was also influenced by multi-instrumentalist Todd Rundgren, and was a big fan of Jobriath.
In his modest home studio, Klunhaar went about recording the Pantherman demos, doing so without any outside assistance. He describes the experience and his process on his website.
Being 23 years of age, somewhat naïve and having just a little experience in the music business, I felt no artistic boundaries or limitations whatsoever at that time and recorded ten songs, including “Pantherman” and “You Are My Friend.” The general direction was meant to be really loud rock on strong rhythms in combination with surrealistic, cinematic and theatrical experiences with sex, humour and sophistication.
Soon, a manager friend of Klunhaar’s helped get him signed to Polydor Records. Released in a handful of European countries, Pantherman’s first 45 hit stores in May of 1974. To promote the record, Klunhaar appeared on the Dutch TV program, Nederpopzien (sadly, the footage is probably lost). Wearing a mask and custom-made black leather suit, Klunhaar mimed for the cameras, and Pantherman was truly born.
Pantherman—both the character and the song—personifies the glam rock era. Gender-bending was a big part of the glam aesthetic, and Pantherman often appears feminine in photographs. His costume is strange and tough-looking, but he’s always pictured holding a stuffed animal, keeping it all very tongue-in-cheek. “Pantherman” is heavy yet still melodic, and conjures up imagery of an otherworldly, almost nightmarish figure, but does so with a playful menace. Listen closely and you’ll realize this is actually one sensitive cat! Just a killer track.
“Pantherman” caused a bit of a stir in the Netherlands. Here’s Klunhaar explaining the response:
The reactions were rather mixed: One part of the “serious” Dutch media in-crowd considered the record weird and somewhat offensive—the lyrics and vocals were too controversial for them—another much smaller part was excited and thrilled.
Continues after the jump…